Monday, December 28, 2009

Janet Napolitano MUST be fired!

Unbelievably, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano went on CNN and two other Sunday shows two days after a terrorist tried to detonate a high explosive on a Detroit-bound airliner and said, "The system worked." As if that was not stupid enough, she followed that up by saying, "There is no suggestion that he [the terrorist] was improperly screened."

We all know this is absurd nonsense. The entire multi-billion-dollar "system" of airline security over which Napolitano presides has one and only one purpose: to prevent terrorists and criminals from attacking airplanes. Thus, the "system" failed totally and abysmally. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was prevented from bringing the airliner down and sending 288 innocent people to their deaths by the incomplete detonation of his bomb and the swift action of one passenger.

We all know that the "system" of gathering and using intelligence on possible terrorists failed because information from Abdulmutallab's own father that his son might be a danger to the United States did not result in the cancellation of his open visa. We know that Britain recently refused to renew his visa to enter the U.K. and apparently, that "dot" was not connected to the other "dots." Most frighteningly, Abdulmutallab bought a one-way ticket to Detroit with cash and had no luggage! Yet, he was neither questioned closely nor frisked, revealing a huge gaping hole in the screening process that Napolitano says "worked."

Napolitano has now backtracked on her Sunday morning comments, acknowledging that something about the "system" did not "work" (a mealy-mouthed retreat in which she claims her comments were taken out of context).

But it's too late for that. Napolitano has shown herself to be an unserious nitwit. Napolitano must resign. If she doesn't, President Obama must fire her. The safety of tens of millions of air travellers must not be left in the hands of someone so dense and foolish.

What's your opinion? Post a comment.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Video: Woman attacks Pope Benedict XVI at Vatican Midnight Mass



From AP:

VATICAN CITY – A woman jumped the barriers in St. Peter's Basilica and knocked down Pope Benedict XVI as he walked down the main aisle to begin Christmas Eve Mass on Thursday.

The 82-year-old pope quickly got up and was unhurt, said a Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini. Footage aired on Italy's RAI state TV showed a woman dressed in a red jumper vaulting over the wooden barriers and rushing the pope before being swarmed by bodyguards.

The commotion occurred as the pope's procession was making its way toward the main altar and shocked gasps rang out through the public that packed the basilica. The procession came to a halt and security rushed to the trouble spot.

Benedettini said the woman who pushed the pope appeared to be mentally unstable and had been arrested by Vatican police. He said she also knocked down Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who was taken to hospital for a check up.
There's more: 87-year-old Cardinal Etchegary suffered a fractured hip in the melee and is undergoing surgery (a serious matter for a man his age). Turns out that the attacker, a 25-year-old Swiss-Italian national, Susanna Maiolo tried to do the same thing at last year's vatican midnight mass but was tackled by security guards before she could reach the pontiff.

I guess they need something like, you know, jails in Italy.

Thoughts? Post a comment.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Food police say Santa is too fat!


Big fat Santa planning his Christmas travels, as imagined by Norman Rockwell

It had to happen. The food police want to crack down on Santa Claus for setting a bad example because he's too fat!

In this season of ever-present Christmas cookies, an unlikely figure is leading the offensive against America's obesity epidemic. The beard on his double chin is as white as snow, and when he laughs, his little round belly shakes like a bowlful of jelly -- and that, as Ernest Berger sees it, is the problem.

Yes, Northern Virginia, Berger is a Santa Claus. But as president of the volunteer group Santa America, Berger has been nudging some of his more corpulent colleagues toward a different model of Santa. He wants his fellow members of the Claus family to give themselves the gift of less girth, calling it "a matter of self-preservation" that will also help children to whom Santa Claus is a roly-poly role model.

"I'm pushing to reduce the size of Santa by 25 percent," Berger says from his home in Daphne, Ala. "We're gently and relentlessly focused on getting these men to be positive about fitness and wellness and reducing their weight."
Berger isn't the only one who wants kids to leave carrots instead of cookies for Santa.

[A]s the obesity epidemic has swollen, some public health experts have cast an increasingly critical eye on Santa's sprawl. Two years ago, acting Surgeon General Steven K. Galson said Santa's corpulence was setting a bad example. His remarks prompted howls of protest, with more than a few people accusing Galson of being politically correct in trying to make Santa physiologically correct.
Hello, Mr. Acting Surgeon General, a "bad example" of what? Right jolly old elves?

As for Berger, if he has a problem with his own weight, let him eat lettuce and work out more. But Santa is not a role model. Kids don't want to grow up to be Santa Claus. They want him say, "Ho, ho, ho," and bring them toys from the North Pole on his flying sled driven by eight tiny reindeer.

Here's a clue for the clueless food police: if Santa were going to die young of diabetes and heart disease, he'd have been long ago dead. But, curiously, he lives on...and on...and will handily outlive Berger, Galson and all the rest of us.

Any thoughts about people who want to put Santa on a diet? Post a comment.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Japanese guy "marries" his videogame girlfriend

OK, this guy (who not surprisingly, doesn't want his real name used) is giving computer geeks and videogame nuts a really, really bad name. On the plus side, he can just delete the little woman if she gets on his nerves. On the downside, the honeymoon must have seemed like all the other nights this clown spent playing with himself.

More here.

Thoughts, anyone? Post a comment.

Howard Dean plunges dagger into the heart of ObamaCare


Howard Dean says he'll support Obama's reelection, but "not vigorously"

As of yesterday, it was not at all clear that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had managed to corral the votes of moderate Democrats needed to reach the magic number 60. Senator Ben Nelson was still holding out for clear language barring the use of any federal funds for abortions. Joe Lieberman was being counted as a yes vote in some accounts, but all Lieberman said was that if the final bill had no form of public option or Medicare expansion, he was "getting to that position to where I can say...that I'm ready to vote for health care reform." Not exactly a ringing endorsement, especially considering that Reid has yet to unveil his final bill. Blanche Lincoln's view remained elusive and several other moderates, such as Virginia's Jim Webb, have been conspicuously silent all along.

Then, suddenly, the left lashed out against the bill, with a particularly damaging attack by former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. Dean has many fish to fry in this debate. He's doubtless been licking his wounds since being passed over by President Obama for Secretary of Health and Human Services. His hostility to Obama was unconcealed in an interview with "Morning Joe" Scarborough (see video above) in which he said he would be supporting Obama for reelection, but "not vigorously." Since that's more or less how much of the left wing of the Democratic Party feels about Obama right now, Dean is making a bold move to claim leadership on the left.

Whatever his motives, in a Washington Post op-ed today, Dean made a powerful case against the Senate bill from his perspective:

If I were a senator, I would not vote for the current health-care bill. Any measure that expands private insurers' monopoly over health care and transfers millions of taxpayer dollars to private corporations is not real health-care reform. Real reform would insert competition into insurance markets, force insurers to cut unnecessary administrative expenses and spend health-care dollars caring for people. Real reform would significantly lower costs, improve the delivery of health care and give all Americans a meaningful choice of coverage. The current Senate bill accomplishes none of these.

Real health-care reform is supposed to eliminate discrimination based on preexisting conditions. But the legislation allows insurance companies to charge older Americans up to three times as much as younger Americans, pricing them out of coverage. The bill was supposed to give Americans choices about what kind of system they wanted to enroll in. Instead, it fines Americans if they do not sign up with an insurance company, which may take up to 30 percent of your premium dollars and spend it on CEO salaries -- in the range of $20 million a year -- and on return on equity for the company's shareholders. Few Americans will see any benefit until 2014, by which time premiums are likely to have doubled. In short, the winners in this bill are insurance companies; the American taxpayer is about to be fleeced with a bailout in a situation that dwarfs even what happened at AIG.

I'd call this is a clear attempt to plunge a dagger into the heart of any compromise Senate bill that might meet the objections of moderates like Nelson, Lieberman and Lincoln. Of course, Dean doesn't have a vote in the Senate, but his fellow Vermonter, independent Bernie Sanders, does, and Sanders says he's not going to support any bill that strips out the public option and Medicare expansion.

This left-wing rebellion goes beyond Vermont. Half the influential left blogosphere has bolted, with DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas writing that it's 'time to kill this monstrosity coming out of the Senate." Liberal MSNBC hosts are piling on as well. Addressing Obama, Ed Schultz said on his program, "Right now, Mr. President, your base thinks you’re nothing but a sellout — a corporate sellout, out that. … The only people who like this current bill right now, Mr. President, is the insurance industry — they get a bunch of new customers.” In a windy commentary, Keith Olberman underscored Dean's arguments, called the compromise Senate bill a "cheesy counterfeit of reform," and declared that he personally would risk jail rather than accede to the individual mandate, if the bill becomes law. Meanwhile, the powerful Service Employees International Union, a major Obama backer and go-to player on health care reform, appeared to be hedging its support and applying pressure on Reid to move the bill back to the left.

If Reid does that, he loses Lieberman and Nelson, probably Lincoln and maybe other moderates. At the least, Obama's Christmas deadline is now kaput. Come January, all bets are off.

What's your take? Post a comment.

UPDATE -- Ben Nelson has affirmed that he won't settle for any compromise on abortion language but will filibuster anything less than the House-passed Stupak Amendment. He also says he has other issues with the bill and that a deadline "isn't helpful." It's looking impossible for Reid to satisfy both Nemson and his rebelling left wing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tiger Woods "on the edge," whining about losing his wife. "Waaah!"


Tiger and knockout wife Elin Nordegren before 14 (plus?) girlfriends emerged

As Mistress Number 14 has come forth, Tiger Woods is said to be frantic and afraid of what his wife will do:

Tiger Woods is on the brink.

The shamed golfer is terrified that his wife is going to divorce him over his sexcapades and make his life miserable by moving to Sweden with their two young kids, a source close to Woods' camp told The Post yesterday.

"He's only just coping -- he's on the edge," the well-placed source said. "He sees everything coming crashing down around him. His career, his family."

Woods' wife, Elin Nordegren, is refusing to speak to him, the source said -- and the two are now definitely living apart.
Oh, poor puppy. After all, what did he do? Fool around with at least 14 (and still counting) other women -- cocktail waitresses, porn "stars," and what have you -- even when his wife was pregnant. And now his wife, the gorgeous model, Erin Nordegren is trying to make his life miserable! Gee, you mean she's not going to forgive him for preferring even a 48-year-old "couger" from Florida to her. How can she be so cruel!

Meanwhile, we mere mortal men wonder why any guy would need to cheat on Erin Nordegren -- which gives me a good excuse to put up these pictures of the sizzling hot soon-to-be ex-Mrs. Woods.







Any thoughts? Post a comment.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Is Barack Obama a closet Neocon?


President Obama and Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland

In accepting the Nobel Peace Prize today in Oslo, Norway, President Obama delivered remarks that included these noteworthy passages:

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago – “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak –nothing passive – nothing na├»ve – in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

I raise this point, I begin with this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter what the cause. And at times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world's sole military superpower.

But the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions -- not just treaties and declarations -- that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest -- because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.
These are words that could easily have been spoken by George W. Bush, a fact that will not go down well with some of the anti-warriors on the Left.

So does that make Barack Obama a closet "Neocon?" Of course not, because they are also words that could have been spoken by any American President since FDR.

Defense of the nation is the paramount duty of the President and Barack Obama understands and embraces that responsibility. And while his understanding of America's unique -- some might say exceptional -- role in the world differs in some ways from that of some of his predecessors, he is at one with them in believing that the United States has a special responsibility to "underwrite global security." And that is a very big deal.

What do you think? Post a comment.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Boise, Idaho, 10 year old imitates Flick from "A Christmas Story," gets his tongue stuck to a pole


Flick tempts nature as Ralphie looks on in "A Christmas Story"

Yes, your tongue will get stuck to a pole in sub-zero weather, just like Flick's, as this Boise kid found out:

Boise fire officials were able to help a boy whose tongue was stuck to a metal fence pole outside the Fairmont pool near the corner of Milwaukee and Northview streets Tuesday morning. Firefighters didn't ask him his age but said he was probably 10.

The boy is OK, Boise Fire Capt. Bill Tinsley said Tuesday morning. The boy’s tongue was bleeding a little bit but there was no visible tearing, Tinsley said.

“I’ve been doing this 20 some years and this is the first (tongue frozen to pole call) I’ve had,” Tinsley said. “Poor guy.”

A woman driving by the pool saw the boy standing there, figured out what was going on, and called 911 a short time after 8 a.m.

When Boise firefighters arrived, they found the boy standing by the 8 foot tall chain link fence with his tongue stuck to the fence pole, Tinsley said.

No word on whether the kid was double-dog dared.

(Hat tip: JammieWearingFool)

Is Lockerbie Bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi dead yet? If not, why not?


al-Megrahi (left) gets hero's welcome on return to Libya with dictator Muammar Gaddafi's son, Saif

On August 20, 2009, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, better known as the Lockerbie Bomber was freed by Scottish authorities on "compassionate grounds" after serving only 8 1/2 years of his life sentence for the terrorist murders of 270 people on Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988. Supposedly, al-Megrahi had "terminal prostate cancer" and had less than three months to live.

That was three months and 20 days ago, so the question should be asked, is he dead yet? And if not, why not?

On November 19, when al-Megrahi's three months were up, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown insisting understandably that the convicted terrorist be sent back to prison in Scotland if still alive. “The bottom line is Megrahi should have never been released in the first place, but it would be even more outrageous if he were to be able to live a long and free life after his release," Schumer said. At that time, it was reported that while al-Megrahi had checked into a local hospital in Tripoli initially on his return to Libya, he had been released and was living at his family’s villa.

On October 21, hopes for al-Megrahi's quick demise were raised briefly when Sky News reported that he had died, but his lawyer promptly denied it:

It's absolutely untrue," said al-Megrahi's lawyer Tony Kelly, according to Reuters. "He's definitely not dead."

Kelly would not comment further on his client's health, other than to say: "He is alive and breathing," Reuters reported.

Lest there be any doubt about the mass murderer's still breathing air, a Libyan official told Reuters, "Megrahi's condition is stable. He's alive."

That's the last reasonably authoritative reference to al-Megrahi's health that this blogger can find anywhere. If the bomber is alive today, he's well past his promised expiration date and the Obama Administration should renew Senator Schumer's demand to send him back to prison.

The business about "compassionate grounds" had a stink about it from the start. Needless to say, the relatives of al-Megrahi's victims saw little reason to waste compassion someone who had served a measly eight years for killing 270 people. And the British press soon found out that a huge BP oil deal with Libya played at least a significant role in the decision by the U.K. and Scottish governments to release him “in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom."

Indeed, it would seem that the question must be raised and answered, does al-Megrahi have "terminal cancer" at all or was the whole thing a sham?

What do you think? Post a comment.

Welcome Dan Riehl and Hot Air readers

Monday, December 7, 2009

Today is Pearl Harbor Day. Spare a moment to remember.




Exactly 68 years ago today, on December 7, 1941, "a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan," President Franklin D. Roosevelt told a shocked Congress and nation the next day. Roosevelt also said this:

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.
"Always remember" and "never again."

Important words from a great President. So take a moment today to remember. That's the only way we can be sure it will never happen again.

Thoughts? Post a comment.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What Tiger Woods is throwing away (other than millions of dollars)




The wife Tiger Woods cheated on, model Elin Nordegren

I have no way of knowing whether Tiger Woods' wife whacked him with one of his golf clubs, but someone should slap him up side his head for being crazy enough to cheat on the wife pictured above, Swedish swim suit model Erin Nordegren, with reportedly at least this one cocktail waitress.

Tiger is now out an immediate $5 million, according to reports, and may be renegotiating his prenup with Nordegren in order to avoid more domestic messiness that would imperil his lucrative corporate endorsements.

But money is only money. Tiger may lose Nordegren (deservedly so, IMHO). Then, there is the little matter of the future of these two guys, Erin and Tiger's children, Sam (left) and Charlie. All in all, some big losses for a romp with a cocktail waitress.



What's your opinion? Post a comment.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Obama's Afghan decision took Presidential courage in the face of feckless left-wing and right-wing opposition


President Obama addresses the Cadet Corps and the nation at West Point

President Obama has made the right decision to commit 30,000 more Americans troops to the fight in Afghanistan -- on top of the 20,000 additional troops he approved early this year -- to "finish the job" of defeating al Qaeda and its essential ally, Mullah Omar's Taliban. Obama said last year as a candidate that this is the "necessary war" and that he would finish it. He said it again in the spring. He said it again last night at West Point. With the two troop increases, Obama is more than doubling the number of U.S. combat brigades engaged in this fight -- from three to eight. He is also ramping up a more aggressive U.S. strategy to deal with the al Qaeda-Taliban sanctuaries inside the Pakistani tribal areas, where he has already greatly stepped up the tempo of CIA-led drone missile attacks. It's hard to see what else Obama needs to do to demonstrate that he takes his Presidential responsibility for national security seriously.

It was also a courageous decision in light of the certain attacks it would draw -- and has quickly drawn -- from both the deeply unserious pacifistic left wing of the his own party and the comically aggressive right wing of the GOP.

Interestingly, a good deal of the barbs from both sides revolved around Obama's setting out a flexible 18-month time frame for the Afghan surge. Senate Democratic dove, Russ Feingold, found this wanting because it was not a strict deadline for withdrawal: ”I do not support the president’s decision to send additional troops to fight a war in Afghanistan that is no longer in our national security interest. While I appreciate that the president made clear we won’t be in Afghanistan forever, I am disappointed by his decision not to offer a timetable for ending our military presence there." Meanwhile, Senate Republican hawk, John McCain, undermined his standing as a national security guru by immediately leading a GOP attack on Obama over the time frame without even a feeble effort at demonstrating bipartisan unity behind a President making a hard choice to send young men and women to war: “Then it makes no sense for him to announce the date,” Mr. McCain retorted. In short, he said, “that gives the wrong impression to our friends, it’s the wrong impression to give our enemies.”

Beyond Capitol Hill, the attacks were far more intense -- and almost stupefyingly simplistic and irresponsible. MoveOn.org is already pushing a petition to Congress to set a binding deadline for a U.S. withdrawal. Appearing on CNN's "Larry King Live" right after Obama's speech, radical activist Michael Moore called the U.S. presence in Afghanistan "insane" and claimed, in effect, that "there is no al Qaeda in Afghanistan." On the right, columnist Ralph Peters would win if there was a prize for the most hysterical nonsense for writing that Obama's 18-month time frame was a " presidential declaration of surrender." It's a mystery to me how or why Peters, a former Army officer, thinks that adding the firepower of five Army and Marine combat brigades since last spring won't have any effect on the Taliban, while Obama's setting a target date to begin shifting security responsibility to the Afghans will lead to a U.S. defeat.

Obama's formulation is straightforward, clear and compelling: This is a fight we did not ask for but must win for our own safety and security. It has gone on for a long time because we did not apply the necessary resources to it. We're going to do that now. The Afghans and others must do their parts as well. It won't take forever, and as President, I won't let it.

I find it hard to take issue with any of that. Americans of every political persuasion should back the President. There will be more than enough time to find fault if he fails.

Any thoughts? Post a comment.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

President Obama makes the right decision -- to finish the job in Afghanistan


OBL: Answer to the unserious question about Afghan war: "Why are we there?"

About an hour from this writing, President Obama will speak at West Point to explain his decision to send approximately 34,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan over the next nine months or so, with the first contingent to arrive by Christmas. His decision is already coming under intense fire from left-wing critics of U.S. military action who don't appear concerned about the devastating attacks on Americans launched by al Qaeda from their refuge in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan --except as a way to criticize the Bush Administration. At the same time, right-wing bloggers and talking heads are still damning Obama for taking "too long" to decide and for seemingly choosing a troop strength somewhat below that requested by the American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

Both of these lines of attack on Obama are at best foolish and at worst destructive. People on the left and the right have forgotten -- or choose to ignore -- the compelling reason for this war: Mullah Omar's Taliban government of Afghanistan not only gave refuge to and protected Osama bin Laden, so that he could plan and launch the attacks of 9/11. The Taliban were closely allied with al Qaeda, drew financial and logistical support from al Qaeda for their own war against fellow Afghans, and fought side by side with the literally thousands of al Qaeda's Arab, Pakistani, Chechen, Uzbek and other non-Afghan terrorists trained in bin Laden's Afghan camps. An American withdrawal from Afghanistan -- or a defeat in the field -- would result swiftly in Mullah Omar's return, the re-establishment of his "Emirate" government, and the reinstallation of of "Sheikh" bin Laden as an honored guest and crucial supporter of a renewed Taliban. Anyone who doesn't understand that this will happen as surely as the sun comes up in the morning is a fool -- or worse.

At the same time, the U.S. has no interest in conquering or occupying Afghanistan or in imposing on Afghans a style of government not of their own choosing. This is not World War II, there will be no "unconditional surrender," and the right amount of force must be used with extreme care. Too many on the right fail miserably to appreciate this.

We'll see soon enough if the new U.S. troop strength is sufficient and whether Gen. McChrystal's strategy -- as modified by the Administration's senior national security team and adopted by Obama -- needs further refinement. (In all military actions, planning is essential -- but so is flexibility in quickly changing plans to meet the actual conditions of the battlefield.) But right now, the President should have the support of everyone who wants to see this war end as quickly as possible with the job of defeating al Qaeda -- completely and permanently -- finished.

What's your take? Post a comment.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rudy Giuliani would demolish Kirsten Gillibrand for Senate in New York


David Paterson and Kirsten Gillibrand: Two losers?

Ten months ago, New York's accidental Governor, David Paterson, appointed little-known upstate Representative Kirsten Gillibrand to fill the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton.

With all that time as a young, fresh newcomer to the Senate, representing the media capital of the world, New York, amidst debate over a dozen high-profile, even historic debates in Congress -- from two wars to the stimulus to health care and taxes -- you'd think Gillibrand would have it made and be ready to cruise to election to a full term in 2010.

Maybe not, it turns out. According to a new Marist poll, only "25% of the electorate thinks Gillibrand is doing either an excellent or good job in office, and 12% believes she is performing poorly." A potentially even worse problem she faces is that almost a quarter of the electorate doesn't know enough about her to rate her at all. Way to leverage that incumbency, Kirsten!

The really bad news, though, is this:

There has been a great deal of talk over the last few days about whether former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani will oppose Gillibrand in the 2010 race for U.S. Senate. If that’s the case, it could spell trouble for Gillibrand. In a hypothetical matchup against Gillibrand, Giuliani leads 54% to 40%.

OK, that's in part due to Rudy's higher name recognition, but the guy is still well liked among those New York City voters who are not die-hard liberals and has always been very popular in the suburbs and upstate.

Maybe Gillibrand can take comfort from the fact that she's doing a lot better than her patron, Gov. Paterson. A recent Siena poll found that 72% of all New Yorkers wanted someone other than Paterson for Governor, and that Attorney General Andrew Cuomo would beat Paterson in a Democratic primary, 70% to 20%.

In a race against Giuliani, Gillibrand may have disadvantaged herself by spending much of her time and energy making an abrupt transition from her moderate (even relatively conservative on some issues like guns) record and image as a member of the House Blue Dog Coalition to acquire some liberal bona fides. She probably had no choice, since a number of liberal (and also female) downstate members of Congress were threatening to run a primary against her, based on her Blue Dog positions. That threat has disappeared, for the moment anyway (see here and here). But she may have dug herself into a hole where a tough general election contest with Rudy is concerned by staking out positions that give him solid shots to take.

One vote that is certain to haunt her was her vote in support of ACORN funding two months ago. After the release of the tapes showing one after another ACORN housing advisor graciously helping a supposed pimp and prostitute figure out ways to break the law, the Senate voted 83-7 to defund ACORN. New York's senior Senator, Chuck Schumer, voted with the majority, but Gillibrand was one of the tiny band of seven ACORN supporters. The House also voted to cut off funds to the group, 345-75, with Gillibrand's successor in her old upstate district voting with the majority. The Census Bureau and the IRS cut off ACORN. Even Gov. Paterson froze state contracts with the group. But our Kirsten hung tough for ACORN.

Why? Because ACORN is part and parcel of an array of politically important entities in New York State politics. In particular, the Working Families Party, which has a permanent line on the ballot in New York to give to or withhold from candidates, and the powerful unions that back the WFP, conspicuously the 300,000-member 1199/SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. This SEIU affiliate boasts one of the most effective political organizations inside or outside the labor movement, and raises tons of money for candidates it supports.

Dragged down by her support of ACORN, which is bound to be incomprehensible -- and indefensible -- to most New Yorkers, including a lot of Democrats, she'll need every penny and every phone call that 1199/SEIU can throw her way.

Then again, Rudy may not run. If so, Gillibrand may be the luckiest Senator in the country.

Any thoughts? Post a comment.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Oh, great. Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, moved from Quetta to Karachi with help of Pakistan's intelligence service!


Taliban top dog, Mullah Omar, who doesn't like cameras

Remind me why Pakistan is still a "major non-NATO ally"?

President Obama is still figuring out how many more U.S. troops to send to Afghanistan to defeat the Afghan Taliban. Meanwhile, the Taliban chieftain and protector of Osama bin Laden, the camera-shy Mullah Omar, has been chilling in Quetta, Pakistan, not far from the Afghan border. U.S. intelligence has long believed that Omar scooted there from Kandahar after the American invasion in 2001. Lately, the war has been getting closer to Quetta. In particular, there has been lots of speculation that as U.S. drone missile attacks have been getting very effective at zapping Taliban and al Qaeda leaders hiding in the Pakistani tribal areas, the U.S. might start aiming them at the Quetta area in an effort to get Omar. So Omar is on the move again -- but with the help of our supposed ally:

Mullah Mohammed Omar, the one-eyed leader of the Afghan Taliban, has fled a Pakistani city on the border with Afghanistan and found refuge from potential U.S. attacks in the teeming Pakistani port city of Karachi with the assistance of Pakistan's intelligence service, three current and former U.S. intelligence officials said.

Mullah Omar, who hosted Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders when they plotted the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, had been residing in Quetta, where the Afghan Taliban shura -- or council -- had moved from Kandahar after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Two senior U.S. intelligence officials and one former senior CIA officer told The Washington Times that Mullah Omar traveled to Karachi last month after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. He inaugurated a new senior leadership council in Karachi, a city that so far has escaped U.S. and Pakistani counterterrorism campaigns, the officials said.

The officials, two of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the topic, said Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, the ISI, helped the Taliban leaders move from Quetta, where they were exposed to attacks by unmanned U.S. drones.

The development reinforces suspicions that the ISI, which helped create the Taliban in the 1990s to expand Pakistani influence in Afghanistan, is working against U.S. interests in Afghanistan as the Obama administration prepares to send more U.S. troops to fight there.

Bruce Riedel, a CIA veteran and analyst on al Qaeda and the Taliban, confirmed that Mullah Omar had been spotted in Karachi recently.

"Some sources claim the ISI decided to move him further from the battlefield to keep him safe" from U.S. drone attacks, said Mr. Riedel, who headed the Obama administration's review of policy for Afghanistan and Pakistan last spring. "There are huge madrassas in Karachi where Mullah Omar could easily be kept."
Kind of makes you wonder, huh?

Any choice words for our Pakistani allies? Post a comment.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Democrats ready to commit suicide? Senate health bill will slash $491 billion from Medicare



Seniors back Medicare overwhelmingly, as do non-seniors!

The official analysis of the Senate health care "reform" bill on which Majority Leader Harry Reid wants the first vote tomorrow is out from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. The most important number in this "scoring" of the bill is this: it will cut Medicare by a whopping $491 billion.

As was the case with the House bill, most of the public debate and media attention to the Senate version concerns the "public option," the total cost and new taxes proposed, and whether or not federal money will somehow wind up paying for abortions.

The huge Medicare cuts are still largely hidden from view, because Democrats don't want to talk about them and most Republicans talk about the cuts only by way of accusing Democrats of using budgetary flim-flim to make the bills appear "deficit neutral."

But these cuts are a very big deal. They will affect some 46 million current Medicare beneficiaries and millions more who are past 55 and beginning to worry about health care coverage in retirement. As the full impact of these cuts becomes clear to this reliably voting segment of the population, the backlash against any member of Congress foolish enough to vote for the bills will be fierce and merciless.

It's as if Democrats in Congress are prepared to commit political suicide. They have backed themselves into a corner where the failure to pass a bill -- any bill -- is viewed as a blow to President Obama and an affront to labor unions and other powerful constituencies that back the changes. In my view, the backlash will not only strike House "Blue Dogs" and Senate moderates who vote for the bills. It will hit liberal Democrats running in Democrat-friendly states and districts, as long as the GOP is smart and nimble enough to put up strong, appealing candidates. For example, New York's appointed junior Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, may face Rudy Giuliani next year. If so, Rudy will not be shy about positioning himself as pro-senior and pro-Medicare, as Gillibrand tries to explain away her vote for some $500 billion in Medicare cuts.

That won't be easy, since the cuts will have a real and demonstrable negative impact, as the federal agency that administers Medicare reported a few days ago.

According to the CBO, these are the big blows to Medicare as we know it in the Senate bill:

• Permanent reductions in the annual updates to Medicare’s payment rates for most services in the fee-for-service sector to "save" $192 billion over 10 years.

• Cutting $118 billion from Medicare Advantage programs that now enroll more than 13 million seniors over the 2010–2019 period.

• Reducing Medicaid and Medicare payments to hospitals that serve a large number of low-income patients by $43 billion -- about $22 billion from Medicaid and $21 billion from Medicare.

In addition, the bill would create a new agency -- the Independent Medicare Advisory Board -- that would be required to "recommend changes to the Medicare program to [further] limit the rate of growth in that program’s spending. Those recommendations would go into effect automatically unless blocked by subsequent legislative action." In other words, a panel of bureacrats, not accountable to anyone, would propose further cutbacks in Medicare that Congress would not have to vote on and the President would not have to sign into law, thus insulating the politicians from blame for the cuts.

All in all, if the Democrats pass either the Senate or the House bill with cuts of this kind into law, they have to be crazy if they think they will avoid the wrath of the senior voters.

What do you think? Post a comment.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Early payoff? AARP got $18 million in stimulus dough


The so-called American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is aggressively backing the House health care reform bill, despite the fact that it would slash upwards of $500 billion from Medicare programs on which 40 million seniors depend. Now comes the news that AARP has already got its snout in the federal stimulus trough to the tune of $18 million.

Funny how these things work, isn't it?

Of course, this is only an early payoff to the folks who run the self-perpetuating AARP outfit. The real money will roll in after the bill becomes law, Medicare Advantage is cut to the bone, and the 13 million seniors currently enrolled in the popular Advantage programs have no choice but to buy Medigap policies, which conveniently AARP sells.

Any thoughts? Post a comment.

Uh, oh, "virus" infected NY-23 computerized voting machines


A local newspaper in upstate New York's 23rd Congressional District, scene of the hard-fought and nationally prominent special election (won -- so far anyway -- by the Democrat after his Conservative opponent conceded) reports that a computer virus may have "tainted' the results:

GOUVERNEUR, NY - The computerized voting machines used by many voters in the 23rd district had a computer virus - tainting the results, not just from those machines known to have been infected, but casting doubt on the accuracy of counts retrieved from any of the machines.
Conservative Doug Hoffman conceded to Democrat Bill Owens on election night when reported results had him trailing by about 5,000 votes (owens was then quickly sworn in as a member of the House of Representives). Recently, Hoffman "unconceded" when the gap narrowed, albeit not enough to put him ahead. As the remaining absentee ballots are counted, a real donneybrook could be developing over the virus "taint."

If nothing else, this serves as a warning to candidates everywhere not to concede in a fairly close race until all the votes have actually been counted! Beyond that, the idea that the computer might eat your vote is a little unsettling.

Any thoughts? Post a comment.

Chuck Schumer in 2001: Try al Qaeda bigs at military tribunals, not "Federal court...in Lower Manhattan"



Most Americans think that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his fellow 9/11 terrorists should be tried before the Military Commissions created by Congress for that very purpose. Like me, they can't understand why President Obama and Attorney General Holder have made the irresponsible and potentially dangerous decision to try them in U.S. court in New York City instead.

Chuck Schumer, New York's senior Senator and a powerful member of leadership of the Senate Democrats, has emerged as a major defender of this incomprehensible decision.

Come to find out that Schumer sang a different tune right after the 9/11 attacks, when so many of his constituents were vaporized and the hole where the World Trade Center used to be was still smoking. Then, he said this:

There are also those prisoners of war who we have captured and will capture in Afghanistan and other countries who will receive a trial of some sort. It is clear we need to try those suspects in a forum that achieves two primary goals—two goals, I might add, that may not conflict. First, the Government must have the power to use even the most sensitive classified evidence against these suspects without compromising national security in any way, shape, or form. In addition, those who commit acts of war against the United States, particularly those who have no color of citizenship, don’t deserve the same panoply of due process rights that American citizens receive. Should Osama bin Laden be captured alive—and I imagine most Americans hope he won’t be captured alive. But if he is, it is ludicrous to suggest he should be tried in a Federal court on Center Street in Lower Manhattan.

Smart words, Chuck. Yes, it's ludicrous. And it's equally ludicrous that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, al Qaeda's third in command and operations chief who conceived, planned and directed the 9/11 attacks (among many others) should be tried in a Federal court in Foley Square in Lower Manhattan just steps from city hall and a few blocks from the Trade Center.

Where did that tough-minded Chuck Schumer go, and who is this foolish guy who now waves away all of those compelling arguments?

(Hat tip: Legal Insurrection)

What's your opinion? Post a comment.

Nidal Hasan's supervisor at Walter Reed warned in 2007 (!) that he was an incompetent kook


National Public Radio has gotten its hands on a memo written in May 2007 by Fort Hood killer Nidal Hasan's supervisor at Walter Reed Army Medical Center that by any reasonable standards should have led to Hasan's getting the heave-ho. Here's the story:

Two years ago, a top psychiatrist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was so concerned about what he saw as Nidal Hasan's incompetence and reckless behavior that he put those concerns in writing. NPR has obtained a copy of the memo, the first evaluation that has surfaced from Hasan's file.

Officials at Walter Reed sent that memo to Fort Hood this year when Hasan was transferred there.

Nevertheless, commanders still assigned Hasan — accused of killing 13 people in a mass shooting at Fort Hood on Nov. 5 — to work with some of the Army's most troubled and vulnerable soldiers.

On May 17, 2007, Hasan's supervisor at Walter Reed sent the memo to the Walter Reed credentials committee. It reads, "Memorandum for: Credentials Committee. Subject: CPT Nidal Hasan." More than a page long, the document warns that: "The Faculty has serious concerns about CPT Hasan's professionalism and work ethic. ... He demonstrates a pattern of poor judgment and a lack of professionalism." It is signed by the chief of psychiatric residents at Walter Reed, Maj. Scott Moran.

When shown the memo, two leading psychiatrists said it was so damning, it might have sunk Hasan's career if he had applied for a job outside the Army.

"Even if we were desperate for a psychiatrist, we would not even get him to the point where we would invite him for an interview," says Dr. Steven Sharfstein, who runs Sheppard Pratt's psychiatric medical center, based just outside Baltimore.

[snip]

The memo ticks off numerous problems over the course of Hasan's training, including proselytizing to his patients. It says he mistreated a homicidal patient and allowed her to escape from the emergency room, and that he blew off an important exam.

According to the memo, Hasan hardly did any work: He saw only 30 patients in 38 weeks. Sources at Walter Reed say most psychiatrists see at least 10 times that many patients. When Hasan was supposed to be on call for emergencies, he didn't even answer the phone.

[snip]

"I would never, ever hire a physician with this kind of a record," says Judith Broder, who runs the Soldiers Project, an award-winning private therapy program for troops in Southern California.
Me neither. But it seems that the Army didn't pay any attention to this red-flashing warning signal any more than the FBI took seriously Hasan's contacts with the al Qaeda-boosting radical imam, Anwar al-Awlaki.

A full Congressional probe of all this can't happen too soon.

Congratulations to NPR for staying on top of this story and digging into it. Where are the rest of the media?

Any thoughts. Post a comment.


Senate to seniors: Screw you!


Harry Reid claims cutting $400 billion from Medicare makes it "stronger"

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid finally rolled out his health care "floor" bill late Wednesday, and to no one's surprise, roughly half the claimed $838 billion cost over 10 years will be paid for by slashing more than $400 billion from Medicare.

Like the bill already approved by the House of Representatives, Reid's bill would gouge $118 billion from Medicare Advantage programs, which will virtually eliminate this popular managed care option chosen by some 13 million senior citizens. (How's that for keeping Obama's promise, "If you like your current insurance and your current doctor, you won't have to change"?)

Also like the House bill, the proposed cuts are presented as reductions in future cost increases. But commenting on the House version, a report issued a few days ago from the non-partisan Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that administers Medicare and Medicaid, confirmed that the cuts will reduce Medicare benefits and run a real risk of limiting seniors' access to care by reducing Medicare reimbursements to hospitals and doctors, driving up the numbers of providers who decline to accept Medicare patients. Now, Reid proposes that the Senate follow suit and screw seniors.

Of course, millions of seniors already have trouble finding primary care physicians in the midst of an acute shortage that will only get worse as the rolls of insured are expanded by the millions. And all too many top-notch specialists shun Medicare patients as it is. That's a big attraction of the Medicare Advantage programs that Congress wants to eliminate. They ensure access to a managed care network.

There is a lot of merit to the reform that Democrats are trying to push through. But there is nothing "progressive" about robbing Peter to pay Paul -- i.e., slashing Medicare in order to pay for fully half the cost of expanding coverage to others. Republicans are charging that the Medicare cuts will never be made, that it's all a sham to parade the bill as "deficit neutral," and that the Democratic Congress will keep deferring the cutbacks after the bill passes. Maybe, but for seniors, that would be betting their future care on the odd proposition that Reid, Nancy Pelosi and scores of other Democrats in Congress are all blatant liars. And what if the GOP retakes control of Congress by 2012? Republicans have been talking about curbing "entitlements" like Medicare and Medicaid for decades. Won't today's Democratic majorities have done their work for them?

What's your take on the Medicare cuts? Post a comment.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fed report: House bill's $500 billion in Medicare cuts will reduce benefits and endanger access to care for seniors


Seniors: One super-voting bloc politicians mess with at their peril

For months now, it's been clear that the road to "deficit neutral" health care reform is a bumpy, maybe even dangerous, one for seniors. Ironically, in their zeal to extend health insurance to the roughly 40 million people who don't have any, President Obama and many Democrats in Congress appear ready to make deep cuts in Medicare, a program that is on the short list of the signal domestic accomplishments of the Democratic Party over the past 80 years, alongside Social Security, labor rights, and civil rights. What the 45 million seniors and people with disabilities who depend on Medicare are going to think about this remains unclear, although it's hard to see why they would embrace it with resignation.

A new report from the non-partisan Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that administers Medicare and Medicaid, has now confirmed the $500 billion in cuts in the House health care bill that passed a week ago will reduce Medicare benefits and run a real risk of limiting seniors' access to care. From the Washington Post:

A plan to slash more than $500 billion from future Medicare spending -- one of the biggest sources of funding for President Obama's proposed overhaul of the nation's health-care system -- would sharply reduce benefits for some senior citizens and could jeopardize access to care for millions of others, according to a government evaluation released Saturday.

The report, requested by House Republicans, found that Medicare cuts contained in the health package approved by the House on Nov. 7 are likely to prove so costly to hospitals and nursing homes that they could stop taking Medicare altogether.

Congress could intervene to avoid such an outcome, but "so doing would likely result in significantly smaller actual savings" than is currently projected, according to the analysis by the chief actuary for the agency that administers Medicare and Medicaid. That would wipe out a big chunk of the financing for the health-care reform package, which is projected to cost $1.05 trillion over the next decade.

More generally, the report questions whether the country's network of doctors and hospitals would be able to cope with the effects of a reform package expected to add more than 30 million people to the ranks of the insured, many of them through Medicaid, the public health program for the poor.

In the face of greatly increased demand for services, providers are likely to charge higher fees or take patients with better-paying private insurance over Medicaid recipients, "exacerbating existing access problems" in that program, according to the report from Richard S. Foster of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

[snip]

In its most recent analysis of the House bill, the CBO noted that Medicare spending per beneficiary would have to grow at roughly half the rate it has over the past two decades to meet the measure's savings targets, a dramatic reduction that many budget and health policy experts consider unrealistic. [Emphasis added.]
Whatever bill Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid takes to the Senate floor this week will also have to rely on hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare cuts to pay for it.

Most of the public debate about health care reform has focused on the issue of a public option and the overall cost, with the Medicare cuts usually mentioned only in passing. It wasn't long ago that more liberal Democrats were the fiercest defenders of of Medicare and Medicaid, as in 2007 when President Bush proposed cuts that were a fraction of those now approved by House Democrats. No more. Democrats want to pass a bill, so they are largely mum on this topic and talk only about generating "efficiencies" and tackling "abuses" in Medicare.

And the Republicans? Some Republicans may take it up as a talking point now and then, but the GOP's deep-seated objection to "entitlements" like Medicare and Medicaid eliminate them from serious contention as a defender of seniors in this case.

What about the supposed "seniors' lobby," AARP? It has thrown its support behind the House bill in a deal that will bring more customers to its lucrative insurance business.

So seniors are on their own. But here's the thing about that. Seniors -- and near-seniors -- are handily the most reliable group of voters. They may have to hobble on their canes to get to the polling place, but they do vote.

As early as last July, it was already noteworthy in many polls that opposition to health care reform was higher among seniors. That's still true -- but you ain't seen nothing yet. Assuming a bill that cuts $400-500 billion from Medicare is signed into law, the issue will no longer be hypothetical, or muddled by a constantly changing and confusing array of proposals, or hidden behind high-minded rhetoric and clever spin. When it becomes clear to seniors that their health insurance benefits actually have been reduced and that it's going to even harder to find a doctor who accepts Medicare patients (a growing number of physicians have already opted out of Medicare), anyone who voted for it is going to have a hard time convincing constituents over 60 that it's a good deal.

Anyway, it's not just about politics. What's so "progressive" about slashing health care benefits for tens of millions of older Americans -- a large majority of whom have low to moderate incomes -- to subsidize benefits for younger Americans, many of whom don't want insurance now and will resent being obligated to take on premium payments? Beats me.

What's your opinion? Post a comment.

White House busted! Obama bow to Japanese emperor is NOT just "protocol"

Not unless the White House is making up its own "protocol" as Obama cruises through his latest road trip.


For the past 24 hours, a lot of eyebrows have been raised around the world about this photo of the President of the United States bowing low -- very low -- before the Emperor of Japan, one Mr. Akihito, and his lovely wife, the Empress Michiko. Akihito is the son of the guy known as Hirohito who led Japan during its risky escapade in attacking China, the United States and most of the Pacific world -- and kept on leading it long after.

Knocked for a loop by the near-90-degree bend-over, the White House claimed that it was just a matter of "protocol" -- routine stuff, you know, just to be polite.

Having been raised in a household where we all thought the President of the United States doesn't bow down to anyone, I wondered enough to try to find out if I might have missed when this "protocol" arrived. Here are a couple of samples of what I found.


Here is President Ronald Reagan and the then-aging Emperor Hirohito greeting each other -- just like any other two guys on equal footing might -- with a hearty handshake (although Hirohito does look as if he's throwing in a little instinctive bow).


(Hat tip for photo: Bostonmaggie)

Lest you think that some of this protocol stuff might have changed for U.S. Presidents since RR left the White House -- or that Hirohito's son, Akihito, has laid down some new requirements of obeisance in exchange for expanding Japan's imports from America (fat chance!), here is Akihito and his Empress just hanging out last July in Hawaii with a couple of folks who rank way, way down the diplomatic food chain from Divine Emperors, Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle and Admiral Timothy J. Keating, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command. Looks like hearty handshakes all around.

Omigosh, I hope the Governor and the Admiral didn't embarrass us with some protocol faux pas!

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has more photos here, and HotAirPundit has some here.

UPDATE 2: ABC's Jake Tapper has a source who tells him that a bit of a bow was OK but not so deep or jarring as Obama's bow. Says Nixon got it right.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Democratic Senators oppose Obama's decision to try 9/11 terrorists in U.S. court


Sen. Jim Webb (D.-Va.) calls Obama's decision "disruptive, costly, and potentially counterproductive"

National security-minded Democrats are beginning to speak out against President Obama's irresponsible decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other al Qaeda 9/11 terrorists in federal court in New York City.

Virginia's Democratic Senator Jim Webb had this to say:

Those who have committed acts of international terrorism are enemy combatants, just as certainly as the Japanese pilots who killed thousands of Americans at Pearl Harbor. It will be disruptive, costly, and potentially counterproductive to try them as criminals in our civilian courts.

The precedent set by this decision deserves careful scrutiny as we consider proper venues for trying those now held at Guantanamo who were apprehended outside of this country for acts that occurred outside of the country. And we must be especially careful with any decisions to bring onto American soil any of those prisoners who remain a threat to our country but whose cases have been adjudged as inappropriate for trial at all. They do not belong in our country, they do not belong in our courts, and they do not belong in our prisons.

I have consistently argued that military commissions, with the additional procedural rules added by Congress and enacted by President Obama, are the most appropriate venue for trying individuals adjudged to be enemy combatants.

(Hat tip: Below the Beltway)

And Connecticut's independent Democrat, Joe Lieberman, called Obama's move "inconceivable:"
“The terrorists who planned, participated in and aided the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks are war criminals, not common criminals," Lieberman said in a statement. "The individuals accused of committing these heinous, cowardly acts of intentionally targeting unsuspecting, defenseless civilians should therefore be tried by military commission rather than in civilian courts in the United States.”

[snip]

"I share the views of more than 140 family members of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks who recently wrote to the Senate urging that the individuals charged with responsibility for those attacks should be tried by military commission rather than in civilian courts in the United States," Lieberman said. "It is inconceivable that we would bring these alleged terrorists back to New York for trial, to the scene of the carnage they created eight years ago, and give them a platform to mock the suffering of their victims and the victims’ families, and rally their followers to continue waging jihad against America.”

Not so "inconceivable to Obama and Attorney General Holder, it seems. But when something goes wrong with this move to appease left wing critics of the war on terror, Obama and Holder won't be able to say they had no choice. Congress created Military Commissions for this purpose, and Obama will continue to rely on those Commissions -- just not to try and punish the most important of the al Qaeda thugs we've captured.

Any thoughts? Post a comment.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Obama's irresponsible and dangerous decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other 9/11 conspirators in U.S. court in New York City


Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (R) and co-defendants Walid Bin Attash (C) and Ramzi Bin al Shibh at a Gitmo hearing last year

Nothing good can come of the decision by President Obama and Attorney General Holder to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four of his co-conspirators in federal court in Manhattan a few blocks from the hole in the ground where the World Trade Center used to be. The Administration has chosen an irresponsible and dangerous path -- and an unnecessary one.

All five of these guys were set to go on trial last year before the Military Commissions established by Congress for that purpose. On December 8, 2008, the five informed the military judge that they wished to withdraw all motions made on their behalf by their lawyers and plead guilty, even though they faced a possible death penalty. They told the judge that they had made this decision "without being under any kind of pressure, threat, intimidation's or promise from any party.

If the military tribunals had been allowed to continue their proceedings, KSM and his cohorts likely would already have been tried, convicted and sentenced. However, immediately on taking office, President Obama announced that he would close Guantanamo within a year and ordered that the proceedings of the Military Commissions be suspended as his team considered what to do with the Gitmo detainees. Thus, the impending trial of the five 9/11 plotters was put on the back burner.

If today's announcement of trials in federal court was necessary because the Administration had ruled out the use of the military tribunals for whatever reason, it might make some sense. But Obama actually reinstated those tribunals in May with some added due process protections for detainees. Even more inexplicable, even as the KSM five are being hailed into court in New York's Foley Square, four other al Qaeda operatives now held at Gitmo -- including Abd-al-Rahim al Nashiri, accused of planning the 2000 bombing of the U.S. Navy destroyer Cole in Yemen -- will be tried before a Military Commission.

Why all nine of these characters cannot be tried before Military Commissions, when four of them can be, is beyond me. There is a lot of rhetoric being thrown around today by supporters of the Obama-Holder move to the effect that it shows the world that we have absolute confidence in our courts and system of justice. If so, why try al-Nashiri and three others before military tribunals? On top of that, the Obama Administration has made clear that it can and will hold some captured terrorists indefinitely without any trial, if they deem them too dangerous to release. So pardon me if I decline to see today's announcement as some sort of triumph of "justice."

While there is nothing on the plus side for this decision, there are plenty of things on the down side:

First, KSM and the others, assured of a big platform at the epicenter of the worldwide media, will now plead not guilty and use the trial to put the United States government on trial. They will do their best to push out daily propaganda to millions of Muslims around the world. It will be one huge show trial -- a show for the defendants!

Second, our nation's best and brightest lefty lawyers will be falling all over themselves to get a piece of this defense. Dozens of lawyers will demand disclosure of virtually everything about the actions of U.S. intelligence and the actions of allied and friendly countries in pursuing and capturing this al Qaeda crew. While the court will probably curb their appetite, they will win some disclosures, perhaps a lot more than is safe, depending on the judge.

Third, New York City, already the most desired (and hit) target of al Qaeda and its sympathizers, will have a big new reason to worry about being hit again. Only those who believe foolishly that al Qaeda has been vanquished never to be heard from again, can dismiss the obvious attraction of striking New York in the middle of KSM's trial. They may not be able to hijack airliners anymore, but, as last week's Fort Hood massacre ought to show everyone, there are lots of ways that deadly terror attacks can happen without elaborate schemes, 20-man crews and major resources.

Finally, although it's not likely, the government might not win convictions for one or more of these defendants. It only takes one juror to hang a jury, and those smart defense lawyers will do everything they can to assemble a jury that includes at least a few members they think will be open to a defense that turns the tables on the government. What then? There is no chance that any Administration will ever let any of these guys walk free. So it will all be back to square one.

It's utterly irresponsible and dangerous to do this. It's a choice that President Obama may turn out to regret.

What are your thoughts? Post a comment.